Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Follow me!

... Or, on starting a small business, part II.

In one of my posts last year, I talked about starting up a small business. In that post, I mentioned marketing. As I've just finished the 2009 marketing plan, I thought this week would be a good time to talk about marketing in a bit more depth. I also thought it might be a good time to ask you for a favour!

First point - marketing a small business. In my little wool-selling world, marketing is about telling as many knitters, crocheters and other yarn-users about the shop as I possibly can. It is also about doing this within a fairly restricted budget!

At the start of every year, I sit down and write out a marketing calendar. The marketing calendar shows our promotional activities for each month and a rough budget. So I need to work out how much I'm prepared to spend and where I need to spend it to reach as many wool purchasers as possible. An example marketing calendar entry is below:

- Run 20 ads on RRR ($1000)
- Put ads on Ravelry ($20)
- Promote classes in local papers and on Knitterati (free).

As we move through the year, I review the marketing calendar and either do the activities I've planned or alter them to fit in with anything else that might be happening. For example, if a supplier is doing a promotion in March, I might need to add some activities to support that promotion or postpone something that would undermine it. When planning promotional activities, free is good! Cheap is nearly as good and paid is a last resort.

For that reason, CCCK runs a lot of online ads and makes heavy use of free community event listings. Online advertising is relatively cheap - a single, small print ad costs several hundred dollars, whereas a Google link costs a few cents per click.

Cheap ads aren't much help though if you are not reaching the right people. A recent trial run on Facebook was a good example of this - my ads were seen by lots of people and a good percentage clicked through to our webpage - but none of them (as far as I know!) actually came in to buy wool. Basically, I spent a heap of money annoying people. So I've reviewed my marketing calendar and taken out any future Facebook campaigns.

This process of testing ads and promotions, reviewing the results and ditching things that don't work is 90% of small business marketing. The remaining 10% involves seeking help - reading business magazines, marketing blogs and competitors' ads, and getting advice (again, at the best possible price!) from experts in various marketing strategies. I realise that most small businesses don't have much budget to spend on consultants - but if you can find some cash, it is worth considering. Too often, small business owners try to be completely self-sufficient - and they end up missing out because they aren't aware that something is possible. Google AdWords is a good example - I spent some money getting help from an SEO company recently. Without that help, I'd have probably spent too much for my AdWords and wouldn't have tracked the campaign effectively. I reckon I've more than saved the cost of the consultation in avoiding the grief and the costs of a dud campaign.

On the topic of seeking help - I mentioned that I needed a favour. You are currently reading our blog, which is one of our free advertising strategies! Google and Blogger both rank blogs and present them in search results - one of the things that they rank blogs on is the number of followers. The idea is that if a blog has lots of followers, it must be a good blog.

I hope that this qualifies as a good blog and I'd like to see it coming up in search results and on the Blogs of Note page in Blogger. To do this, I need to round up about 100 followers - which is the favour. Will you please follow my blog and help me to rank higher?

It's very easy to follow my blog - just click Follow This Blog (on the right side of the screen, under the subscription area). Provide your gmail address and you're done! *Unfortunately, it seems you have to have a gmail address to follow Blogger blogs - something to do with Google owning Blogger...

So there we go! Marketing 101 for Small Businesses. Now that's out of the way, I must get back to my stash-workout (I'm almost through the left front of Fi's vest - hoping to have pics up on Ravelry and on the blog before too much longer...)